Bosnian Kiwis welcome Mladic arrest

By Paul Harper

The arrest of Ratko Mladic is one step towards closure for the women of Srebrenica, a Bosnian woman living in New Zealand says.

Atka Reid, who co-wrote Goodbye Sarajevo with her sister Hana Schofield, welcomed the news of the arrest of the former Serb military leader.

Mladic, 69, was caught in a dawn arrest at a relative's home in a tiny Serbian village.

He faces charges of genocide and war crimes over the July 1995 slaughter of up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica.

"It has been a very long time, it has been more than 16 years now, but I guess it always good news to see the justice has been served.

"I just hope he doesn't go through a very long trial ," Atka says.

"[Radovan] Karadzic is still in trial and [Slobodan] Milosevic ... he died during trial - he was never found guilty. It would be great closure for these guys to finally get a guilty sentence.

"Bringing Karadzic and Mladic to trial is a step towards justice that will give people of Bosnia peace, particularly women of Srebrenica whose husbands and children have been murdered.

"For them it would be some kind of closures, I hope."

The eldest of 10 children, Atka was caught up in the Siege of Sarajevo in May 1992.

Fluent in English, she helped foreign journalists covering the war, and ends up teaming up with, and falling in love, with Kiwi photojournalist Andrew Reid.

After she fell pregnant, her concerned in-laws brought her to Christchurch to have the baby.

In the coming years, Rose and Bill Reid flew Atka's entire family - nine kids, both parents and her grandmother - to New Zealand, where they have lived ever since.

Atka hopes the arrest of Mladic can provide closure for those that remain in Bosnia.

"I can only speak for my friends and family members who are still there, they've got peace, but the only way forward is actually to have some kind of justice. And with this, I guess, we are one step closer to that closure, so people can put it behind and look forward."

She says the country, effectively separated in two (the Republic of Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia Hersegovina), has remained in economic and political crisis since the Bosnian War, which ran from 1992 to 1995.

"[The] Dayton peace [agreement in 1995] has created peace - the fighting stopped, but unfortunately it did not provide any solutions.

"Most of my friends, whether they are Serbs, Muslims or Croats, they just want decent lives. They want good health and education and good futures for their children.

"If the country focuses on economic progress and meanwhile we have these war criminals on trial, that is a real huge leap forward for Bosnia."

Entering the Europe Union would help Bosnia with that progress, Atka says, and is long overdue.

"Geographically Bosnia is in Europe, it is just that since the war ended Bosnians cannot travel to Europe that easily.

"Basically they are stuck in that place where all those atrocities occurred. For them I think one of the biggest parts of getting over those atrocities and the horrors would be to feel part of Europe, to be able to freely travel to France, or Germany, or Italy, or wherever.

"It is going to happen for Serbia for sure, because now they are showing, finally, that they are willing to bring these monsters to trial, which is about time, and I really hope that Bosnia will be part EU very soon."

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